Everything old is new again. Walls are back in style.
Twenty-five years ago, I was traveling from Venice, Italy to Ljubljana, Yugoslavia (now Slovenia) by train aboard the Gypsies, Thieves and Tramps Express. I desperately wanted to head north to Berlin to partake in the end of the Cold War festivities. Now that was a party...the Berlin frickin' Wall was coming down.
Monumental. Unheard of. Amazing. Things do change.
Yet when you think about it, despite globalization's promise of a borderless world -- walls separating people, not money, goods or ideas mind you, seem to be de rigeur. Sure, one came down in 1989, but several more have gone up since. Have we learned nothing from history?
Man has always loved walls, every traveler knows that. A few of my favorite walls include: Dubrovnik's City Walls, Lennon's Wall in Prague and Saqsaywaman in Cuzco.
Walls usually go up at great cost, effort and blood, and then they all fall down, eventually. Sometimes they work, like the Vietnam Memorial aka The Wall. And sometimes they don't, like the Green Monster in Boston this season.
We travelers have built our own walls within the confines of grand hotel lobbies, I call it the Virtual Wall of technology; whereby travelers are walled off from other travelers as they enter their own online worlds.
But forget what you've heard about the Walls of Jericho, the first true wall was built by the Hebrews in Jerusalem sometime around 515 BCE. Known to us gentiles as the Wailing Wall, it didn't work too well for them and people have been crying about it ever since.
Of course there's the granddaddy of all walls, the Great Wall of China. Built over 2300 years ago and still standing -- I know because I played Frisbee on it -- in order to protect the Chinese dynasties from the nomadic tribes of Huns and Mongols from sacking their villages and stealing their bound-footed gals. The Chinese now have the so-called Green Wall (aka Three North Shelterbelt Project), a wall of trees designed to keep the desert out while supplying Beijing with fresh air -- good luck on that!
The Roman Empire loved building walls too: there was Hadrian's Wall, and Antonine's Wall, two stone and turf fortifications that kept those wild kilt-wearing Scots at bay. (I am sure you saw the movie.) Then there was the Servian and Aurelian Walls that kept Rome safe from barbarian attacks and returning armies. And of course there were the so-called Limes Germanicus -- that's German Wall in Latin -- that kept those nasty beer-drinking Germanic tribes out of their wine-swilling Empire.
And in case you missed it, since 1989 congress allocated funds to build a few walls. First there was 12-foot-high, three-mile-long Baghdad Wall separating historic Sunni enclaves from Shiite neighborhoods to help break the cycle of sectarian violence. Didn't work so well I hear. And of course there is the one to surround America with a series of walls in order to protect us from illegal aliens, terrorists and Ebola. The old fashion brick wall is getting a high-tech sprucing up.
So, if it was good enough for the Roman Empire, it's good enough for the American Empire, right! Let's start building shall we? Why stop at our borders by expanding the Tortilla Wall around San Diego with what our friends south of the border call La Linea, around the whole 1,933-mile barrier that separates us from Mexico. Let's also build a 3,987-mile high-tech fence across our Canadian frontier, hereafter known as the Great White North Wall that will keep us safe from Canadian marijuana, stand up comics and hockey players?
And here are a few new other walls around-the-world that would really help keep us in Fortress America safer from the Axis of Evil, Ebola and whatever new boogeyman Fox News uncovers:
Obviously, the old Korean DMZ isn't working, so let's build a Bamboo Wall around Kim Jong-un's workers' paradise and cut off his cable. We'll see how long it takes him to get sick of those million man parades. And if they go nuclear on us, we could borrow Israel's Iron Dome for a while -- after all, US taxpayers paid for it.
After that it's on to Iran. Let's boycott their oil exports and build a giant Wall of Pipelines around their country. A giant empty pipeline! It won't be long before the Mullahs of Mashhad see the light and start missing those petrodollars. (Oh, this just in, Putin already has done this!)
Iraq, Syria and ISIS are tougher nuts to crack; the remnants of wars always are. What say we just isolate all the countries where jihadi Islamists reign? No flights in or out. No imports or exports. No satellite or Internet. We'll call it the Veiled Wall, and it will hopefully prevent that inevitable clash of civilizations from occurring by effectively sealing them in, and us out. Nothing like good old segregation is there? I hear the Wall of Separation has worked wonders between Israel and Palestine. See, everything old is new again!
Okay, other pockets of resistance to our way of life and global domination needing walls might include:
The No Más Wall: that would surround Venezuela until their bombastic leaders tone down their anti-America rhetoric.
A New Maginot Wall: would keep the French out of our foreign entanglements. I know it didn't work too well in 1940, but just because it's an old French idea, I think they'll respect it on principle!
The Wall of Sound: would surround the island of Cuba with heavy metal-emitting ships constantly playing Pink Floyd's The Wall, until Castro's samba-loving ancien regime either steps aside or goes deaf.
The Wall of Shame: being forgotten by the Republican majority, all working class Americans would be horded up into big box stores -- not that they can afford to buy anything! It could also be called Wall Mart.
The Values Wall: in order to keep the Religious Right and Constitutional literalist tea baggers from taking us back to the Middle Ages, Democrats could build a doughnut-shaped wall around the Bible Belt.
Wall of Separation II: again using Israel's model of separating themselves from the Palestinians, we for once and for all solve America's political bickering by separating all the Blue States from the Red States.
Me? I prefer bridges over walls.